By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, December 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael on the minister’s favourtie musical and wine issues at the Liberal party
What Raitt expects under the tree
On Dec. 25 expect to find Labour Minister Lisa Raitt in the movie theatre watching Les Misérables. She is a huge fan, having seen the musical twice in London and twice in Toronto. The song I Dreamed a Dream, she confessed, makes her cry every time—but only in the context of the play. That means no tears were shed for Susan Boyle, the underdog who sang it famously on Britain’s Got Talent. Raitt has told her partner Bruce Wood that advance Les Misérables movie tickets “better be under the Christmas tree.”
Someone is posing
It was a rare moment of cross-partisanship on the Hill, with politicians from opposite sides coming together for a photo op. But there’s no shared version of events as to how that photo came about. Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau told Capital Diary that Tory MP Eve Adams was hosting a group of visitors, including one from her home city of Mississauga, Ont., and asked him if he would pose for a picture with them. They went to the House foyer for better lighting. Adams, however, says it was Trudeau who asked her group if they wanted a picture, though she did join in for the snap. Trudeau says opposition MPs asking him to pose with people, even constituents, “happens all the time.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Windsor Star says if the Senate defeats C-290 it will be another reason to implement the Harper government’s proposed reforms.
Needless to say, senators are appointed and unaccountable — and that is the real issue that the handling of Bill C-290 should be raising. Hopefully, the controversy over the sports betting bill will spur renewed interest in the Commons to back Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign to implement reform in the Senate, long seen as a patronage retreat for party hacks who are overpaid, underworked and answerable to virtually no one…
We trust senators, over the next few days, will come to understand the importance of the sports betting bill to communities like Windsor and eventually endorse it. Even that, however, won’t diminish the need for Senate reform.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Stephane Dion chides the Conservatives on news that the Harper government will be referring its Senate reforms to the Supreme Court.
“Liberals have long called on this government to refer its Senate reform legislation to the Supreme Court in order to ensure its constitutionality. In fact, it was Liberal Senators who first made this recommendation in a 2007 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Unfortunately, the government chose to ignore our requests, and instead spent years dragging its feet.
“It is puzzling that it has taken the Harper Conservatives so long to come to this realization. Had they heeded our advice at the outset, they would be five years further down the road on these changes.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
More than six years after forming government, the Conservatives want the Supreme Court to review their plans for Senate reform.
The Supreme Court reference, expected to be formally announced in the fall, would cause another round of delays in the passage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Bill C-7. Since 2006, the Conservative government has called for all new senators to be selected through provincial elections and to serve under a fixed term, with the latest version of the legislation proposing a nine-year mandate…
The Quebec government called on the province’s court of appeal to rule on C-7’s constitutionality last May, although the matter has yet to be heard. In that context, sources said the government intends to refer its unilateral reform plans to the Supreme Court as a pre-emptive move against an eventual challenge.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, August 3, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
However, two days ago, you made a statement that was completely inaccurate. You claimed that the opposition had been endeavouring to block Bill C-7: “I have asked that they stop stalling it and let it come to a vote”, you told The Guardian in Charlottetown on July 30, 2012. In fact, it is the government that has chosen to move other priorities ahead of the debate at the second reading of Bill C-7. Had you decided otherwise, this proposed legislation would already be debated in committee.
To be more precise, the government tabled the proposed legislation in the House on June 21, 2011, and brought it to second reading for debate on September 30, October 3, November 14 and December 7 and 8, 2011, as well as on February 27, 2012. On those occasions the opposition participated in the debate on C-7 without obstructing it in any way. You cannot prove otherwise.
My concern is that you have fabricated this false version of the facts so that you can justify in advance shutting down debate in order to impede the committee’s deliberations. You know full well that the vast majority of experts would come to express the same objections as the Liberal opposition.
Of course, in addition to this matter of alleged obstruction, Mr. Dion also has some substantive issues with the legislation in question.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 30, 2012 at 10:34 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press finds that the Senate is not quite an exemplar of openness and transparency.
The reporter for weekly newspaper L’Etoile was told that he would have to physically come to Ottawa to look through the Senate attendance register, fat red binders with forms filed monthly by each senator … Another public registry, detailing the financial and business interests of senators, has only been available four hours per weekday at the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer in Ottawa. The Senate voted in May to make the registry public, but the office said the transition won’t be complete until 2013.
Unlike the House of Commons, Senate proceedings are still not televised, and there is no way to easily search Senate votes or daily debates using an online database.
Paul Adams suggests moving the Senate to Winnipeg.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 9:51 AM - 0 Comments
Postmedia tries to figure out how long the Senate could be Conservative.
A Postmedia News analysis of the current retirement dates for the country’s senators suggests the NDP would have to win, at minimum, two consecutive election victories to end Conservative dominance of the Senate. The same is true for the Liberals.
Should the NDP form a majority in 2015 (when the next federal election is scheduled), the analysis suggests it would take the party seven years to appoint enough NDP senators to overtake the Tories. This would require winning two consecutive elections at least four years apart. Should the NDP not unseat the Tories until 2019, it would take election wins through to 2034 for the New Democrats to accumulate enough Senate seats from retiring Conservatives and Liberals to wrest control of the Upper Chamber.
Jordan Press also talks to Conservative Senator Bert Brown about the Harper government’s hopes for reform.
What the NDP would do with the Senate and how a Conservative Senate would interact with an NDP government is one of the more intriguing questions for (at least) the next three years.
See previously: The NDP vs. The Senate
By Colby Cosh - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 6:07 AM - 0 Comments
Even the departing head of a Western Canadian think tank that preached the Senate reform gospel for decades has had a sudden conversion on the road to Damascus.
Roger Gibbins, who steps down later this month as president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, joins Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and former Stephen Harper campaign strategist Tom Flanagan among influential westerners who’ve come to the conclusion Senate reform—as currently envisioned—is either unnecessary or misguided.
…Gibbins said “another reality is starting to sink in”—a reality he concedes is “preaching against the doctrine” of the Canada West Foundation during his 14 years of leadership.
“If we have a Senate that’s elected and effective to some degree—but the seat distribution doesn’t change—then we’re into a situation where an elected Senate may be detrimental to the interests of the West,” said Gibbins.
The four western provinces are vastly under-represented in the 105-seat chamber, with only six seats each. The four Atlantic provinces, despite much smaller populations than the West, have a combined 30 seats; Ontario and Quebec each have 24.
As long as that distribution remains unchanged, Gibbins said: “To the extent that the Senate becomes a more influential body—and that’s uncertain—but to the extent that it does, it would shift power into Atlantic Canada and away from the West.”
That Gibbins is repeating the very arguments made by former Liberal intergovernmental affairs minister Stephane Dion is nothing short of jaw-dropping. -Bruce Cheadle for CP, yesterday
It’s jaw-dropping, that is, if you haven’t been following Roger Gibbins through twenty years of steady personal opposition to Senate reform, and particularly the “Triple-E” form which would make the Senate elected, equal (amongst the provinces), and effective. It’s a matter of a few minutes’ work to prepare a dossier on this, complete with hilariously antiquated dates: Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 8:14 AM - 0 Comments
1. Proportional representation just won itself a whole passel of new right-wing fans.
2. Alberta Liberal morale remained high throughout an election in which pollsters warned continually of disaster. And the pollsters proved to be almost exactly right about this (if nothing else). Yet even as the mortifying results rolled in, Alberta Liberal morale still remained high. Then their egomaniac not-really-Liberal disaster of a leader, Raj Sherman, won his seat by the skin of his teeth. This means he will not have to be replaced unless an awful lot of people smarten up fast. Alberta Liberal morale after this event? Easily, easily at its highest point in ten years. “Please, sir, may I have another?”
3. NDP leader Brian Mason’s first words on reaching the podium? “The phone booth [two seats] just doubled [four seats]!” Message: we like the phone booth. We’re never leaving it. Not us.
4. Total votes cast for Senators-in-Waiting, with complete results not quite yet in, are about 2,486,858. If everybody voted for three Senators, that implies about 829,000 ballots cast—which in turn suggests that around 458,000 eligible voters selected a candidate for the Assembly but refused or spoiled their Senate ballot. The practice was certainly widespread, and if these numbers are close to right, the Senate election has been boycotted quite significantly.
5. Those who did boycott the Senate election seem awfully proud of themselves, because it was a “meaningless” election. Why, one wonders, does it have to be meaningless? The “progressive” parties could have agreed on a single Senate candidate in advance; if they had done so, that candidate would certainly have ended up first in the queue, and provided an excellent test of Stephen Harper’s integrity, which I am told is much doubted.
The problem is that Harper might pass the test, you say? Then what’s the harm? You get some smart, popular left-wing independent speaking for Alberta in the Senate? That’s bad for “progressives” how?
6. It is not unusual for candidates to get 70%, 75%, or even 80% in Alberta provincial or federal elections. By this measure, however, the Alberta electorate is now unusually divided: the highest vote share earned by any candidate, of any party, was NDPer Rachel Notley’s 61.98% in Edmonton-Strathcona. (There was talk in advance of the vote that electoral redistricting would hurt Notley, though no one thought for a moment she would lose.)
7. Only one Conservative candidate received 60% of a riding’s votes cast: Human Services Minister David Hancock in Edmonton-Whitemud. PCs relishing their first-past-the-post “landslide” [see item 1, supra] would do well, I suppose, to realize that only 19 of the 61 victors have the approval of more than 50% of their fellow-citizens.
8. Voters don’t like turncoats much. There was a lot of floor-crossing in the 27th Legislative Assembly of Alberta: three PCs (Heather Forsyth, Rob Anderson, and Guy Boutilier) left for the Wildrose Party, one (Raj Sherman) bolted for the Liberals, and the PCs got one back from the Liberals in the person of Bridget Pastoor. Forsyth had a hideous scare in Calgary-Fish Creek, taking it by just 74 votes. Boutilier was turfed. Sherman, like Forsyth, narrowly escaped garroting. Only Anderson (in Airdrie) and Pastoor (Lethbridge West) got the usual easy ride that comes with incumbency.
9. Ted Morton’s widely anticipated whupping in Chestermere-Rocky View lived up, or down, to all expectations. His challenger, broadcaster Bruce McAllister, beat him 10,168 to 6,156; McAllister earned the highest vote share of any Wildrose candidate (58.4%) and, along with Danielle Smith, was one of only three to amass 10,000 votes.
10. There is this weird consensus among intellectuals and creatives that the progressive vote in Alberta will coalesce around the Alberta Party by 2016. All my techie and designer-y friends seem as convinced of this as if it were divine revelation (and, in truth, the Alberta Party’s election materials do look pretty badass, graphics-wise). I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, because these are the same people who were sure that a single-button mouse was a good idea ten years ago, but then the top young organizers in the Wildrose Party told me that the AP was full of smart, hustling people and that they, too, believed it would soon become Alberta’s party of the left.
Yes, there is plenty of embarrassment to go around this morning, but I still cannot understand why I was assured so often that the Alberta Party would win multiple seats; they were never above about 3% in the polls, and if there can be such a thing as a calamitous performance for a fledgling movement with not much of a platform and a kinda-fake leader, this must be it. The Alberta Party got 1.3% of the vote last night. If the NDP lives in a phone booth, what do you call this? A really tight pair of rubber underpants?
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM - 0 Comments
In the midst of defending the Senate, Colin Kenny offers the following.
No question, initiators of legislation requiring public expenditures should be elected. That’s why we have the House of Commons. But the Senate is designed to review that legislation. While it can delay its passage, by convention everyone agrees that it can’t stop it. So the argument that it is “undemocratic” to appoint significant components of government doesn’t hold water. In the end, within the legal guidelines of the constitution, the elected component of Parliament has the last word. That’s all that matters.
Senator Kenny is right to note that an elected Senate would likely feel empowered to defeat bills passed by the House. But he seems to ignore the fact that the unelected Senate has felt sufficiently empowered to do so twice in recent years—see here and here.
Bert Brown has mused vaguely of some mechanism to ensure the House’s supremacy, but until such a thing exists, it is likely worth going back to one of the questions Alice Funke suggested for debate in the NDP leadership campaign.
How will a federal NDP government face what will almost certainly be its first constitutional crisis, namely a showdown with the Senate?
So far as I’ve seen, only Brian Topp has engaged this scenario.
(Via Twitter, a couple of readers suggest Senator Kenny is referring specifically to money bills. He may well be, although in the next paragraph after the one noted above he seems to refer only to “legislation.” Either way, I think the point still stands: It is worth wondering how a Conservative Senate would interact with an NDP government and how would the presence of elected senators impact that situation, especially given the willingness of a Conservative Senate to override the House in recent years.)
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 2:57 PM - 0 Comments
In the journalism game, we call it “burying the lede”. Friday’s Postmedia papers have a column by Stephen Maher in which he waxes utopian about “modernizing” Canada’s monarchy by introducing an elected head of state. “Pfaugh,” I hear you say, “I’ve read it all before.” For the most part, you have. After all, most of the heavy lifting in the argument is done by the mere use of the loaded word “modernizing”; who’s against modernity? Maher chats admiringly about other countries (Jamaica and Ireland) for a few hundred words before letting fly with an easily-overlooked bomblet of originality:
If the prime minister is able to hold consultative elections to select senators—a question the Supreme Court may ultimately decide—then surely we could select our governor-general the same way.
My reaction to this idea was: “Good heavens, I suppose that’s right.” I’ve never heard anyone suggest it before, even in technical literature on the constitution. But like Senate elections, it would appear to be a natural consequence of responsible government: the prime minister can presumably use whatever process he likes—a reality show, a Ouija board, a lottery—to arrive at a candidate for recommendation to the Queen.
It’s hard even to count the things that would have to happen before it would be in some credible political leader’s interests to advocate an elected governor-general. But, then, it wasn’t political leadership that got the Senate-reform ball rolling in the first place.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 2:16 PM - 15 Comments
Jeff Jedras notes Stephane Dion’s continued dissection of the Harper government’s Senate reforms, including the exclusion of federal parties from the proposed process. Meanwhile, an informal poll of academics in Alberta and British Columbia finds overwhelming opposition.
Professors contacted in the two provinces agreed by more than a 3-1 margin with the proposition that the reforms, aimed at ensuring senators are elected and limited to nine-year terms, are against their provinces’ interests. The legislation, being debated this week in the House of Commons, “scares me, to be honest,” said University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan, a former senior Harper adviser.
John Geddes considers the massive questions left unanswered.
By John Geddes - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:53 PM - 15 Comments
Peter O’Neil of the Vancouver Sun takes an enterprising approach in this story that bids to inject some life into the debate over the federal government’s Senate Reform Act. O’Neil surveyed professors at British Columbia and Alberta universities, and found that 18 of 25 who responded didn’t like the bill, which is now being debated in Parliament.
It’s telling, but not all that surprising, that political science and constitutional law profs don’t much like the government’s plan to limit Senate terms to nine years and set up an oddball system for non-binding elections (future prime ministers wouldn’t have to appoint the winners to the upper chamber, but would presumably face strong pressure to go along with the voters’ picks).
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 7 Comments
Survey of profs finds few like the Conservative approach
An email survey of professors of political science, Canadian history and constitutional law at universities in British Columbia and Alberta found they stand opposed to the Conservative government’s plan to overhaul the federal Senate by a 3-1 margin. Of the 25 academics who got back to the Vancouver Sun on the issue, 18 said Harper’s legislation was against their provinces’ interests. The reform bill, which is being debated this week in Parliament, would limit senators’ terms to a nine years and set out a scheme for non-binding elections of future senators. Some professors objected to the possibility of the Senate becoming more powerful. Some protested against reforming the upper chamber without redistributing seats; based on their populations, BC and Alberta are grossly underrepresented in the Senate, whereas Ontario, Quebec and, especially, the Maritme provinces have many more senators per capita.
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 2 Comments
Handy having an orthopaedic surgeon
Ontario Conservative MP Patrick Brown…’s annual Hockey Night
Handy having an orthopaedic surgeon
Ontario Conservative MP Patrick Brown’s annual Hockey Night in Barrie continues to grow. Each year, the charity fundraiser for the Royal Victoria Hospital has MPs and NHL players sharing the ice for a game. This year (the fourth) raised almost $200,000 for the hospital’s cancer care centre. Current and retired NHL players this time included Ryan O’Reilly of the Colorado Avalanche, Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets, Luke Pither of the Philadelphia Flyers and Darcy Tucker. Also attending was Conservative MP Kellie Leitch (who beat Helena Guergis in the last election). The rookie MP would have been handy in an emergency: Leitch is an orthopaedic surgeon who has sports- injuries training going back to the days when she worked with the Toronto Argonauts.
Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel (who took former cabinet minister Jim Prentice’s old seat in the last election) arrived at the game to support Brown and her fellow MPs. But when she got drafted as one of the coaches, she quickly rose to the challenge. (Last year, Stephen Harper put in an appearance and coached the same team.) Defence Minister Peter MacKay arrived with all his hockey gear but had to borrow one of Patrick Brown’s sticks. Most of the MPs present agreed that Brown is one the Conservatives’ best players.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM - 35 Comments
Much as I know it’s bad form to give away somebody else’s kicker, I can’t resist passing along the last paragraph of William Watson’s most recent (and typically excellent) column, which is about why Canadians (and Brits) shouldn’t feel all superior about their parliamentary system just because the U.S. way of government looks so dysfunctional during its current dance with debt default: Continue…
By John Geddes - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 24 Comments
Tim Uppal’s first big obstacle is opposition from within his own party.
There’s no shortage of veteran politicians around Ottawa—not to mention party strategists, academic experts and even journalists—who can tell war stories about doomed efforts to reform the Senate. But Tim Uppal, a second-term Conservative MP from Edmonton, isn’t one of them. Before politics, he was a residential mortgage manager, community radio host, and coach of the traditional Punjabi sport kabaddi, which has been described as a combination of rugby, tag and wrestling. Maybe the last credential is what suggested to Stephen Harper that Uppal might have what it takes to be his secretary of state for democratic reform, the junior minister whose top priority would be to fight through inevitable resistance and finally make good on the promise to overhaul the Senate.
Uppal is spending his summer trying to build support for the Senate Reform Act, which was tabled in the House last month. The bill would limit senators, who can now serve until age 75, to nine-year terms. It would also encourage, but not compel, provinces and territories to hold elections that would produce lists of winners from which prime ministers would be expected to appoint senators. In an interview, Uppal took an upbeat, optimistic tone, and resisted being drawn into a detailed discussion of exactly how the revamped Senate would function. Pushed on just about any issue, he repeated his mantra: “The status quo is not acceptable.”
And Harper’s position does, in fact, boil down to saying something’s got to change—an unelected Senate, in which partisan appointees currently collect $132,300 a year, plus benefits, just can’t be allowed to stand. But the limited fix Uppal is assigned to promote is prompting predictable questions, the sort that have derailed many past bids at reform. If senators are to be elected, how will that change their relationship with the House? It stands to reason that they will feel emboldened to more often block legislation sent to them by MPs. And if democratic legitimacy makes the Senate more powerful, won’t that also make its regional imbalance a bigger problem? For instance, British Columbia and Alberta now have six senators each, while New Brunswick and Nova Scotia get 10 senators apiece.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 2:20 PM - 16 Comments
New poll shows large majority in favour of vote on future of Red Chamber
A large majority of Canadians support having a referendum that would decide the future of the Senate, according to an Angus Reid poll released this week. The poll found that 71 per cent of Canadians support having a nationwide referendum on the topic, while fewer than 10 per cent were against the idea. The rest were unsure. At the same time, 70 per cent of respondents indicated that they support eight-year term limits for senators, while 72 per cent said they support having an elected Chamber. Support for abolishing the Senate — something the Opposition NDP advocates — was less robust, with 34 per cent of respondents in favour of that idea. In June, the government introduced legislation that would implement nine-year terms for senators, and create an optional electoral framework for provinces to elect representatives to the chamber.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM - 6 Comments
It is obviously noteworthy that the Canadian public largely supports Stephen Harper’s proposed reforms to the Senate, but when the options are put side-by-side, the Canadian public is still relatively split.
Which of these statements comes closest to your own point of view?
Canada does not need a Senate, all legislation should be reviewed and authorized by the House of Commons 36%
Canada needs a Senate, but Canadians should be allowed to take part in the process to choose senators 40%
Canada needs a Senate, and the current guidelines that call for appointed senators should not be modified 5%
Not sure 19%
For that matter, as many Canadians support Stephen Harper’s calls for term limits and elections (70% and 72%) as support Jack Layton’s call for a national referendum (71%).
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 12:21 PM - 6 Comments
Former Liberal leader tries to undermine Harper in his Tory heartland with position on reform
Former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has waded into the debate on Senate reform, arguing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to update the upper chamber is out of touch with his home province of Alberta and neighbouring British Columbia. In an op-ed article, Dion sides with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and former Alberta premier Don Getty, who have both voiced criticism of the federal Conservative plan. Harper wants to pass a law to limit Senators’ terms and encourage provinces to hold elections to fill their vacant Senate slots. Those votes would be voluntary and a prime minister would still have the final say on appointments. The Tory proposal does not tackle the current imbalance that favours smaller provinces, leaving Alberta and British Columbia with far fewer senators than their populations warrant. “Alberta has 9.1 per cent of members of Parliament, but only 5.7 per cent of the senators,” Dion writes. “The gap is even larger for B.C., with 11.7 per cent of MPs and only 5.7 per cent in the Senate.” The op-ed is written with the characteristic factual precision that first drew attention to Dion when he used cold, relentless logic as then-prime minister Jean Chrétien’s point-man on constitutional issues to become a constant annoyance to Quebec separatists. Now, as Liberal critic for democratic reform and intergovernmental affairs, he seems to be employing the same tone and technique to undermine Harper’s bid to overhaul the Senate.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 40 Comments
Andrew Coyne on why the Senate is intolerable
The Senate is Confederation’s original sin, the great stain on the fathers’ handiwork, from which much greater evils have flowed. Structurally, it has contributed to the divisions and weaknesses that have bedevilled the federation. Without some constitutionally appropriate vehicle for expressing the concerns of the regions in federal politics, it has been left to the premiers, inappropriately, to do the job.
Worse, however, has been its corrosive effects, compounded over time, on our political ethics. It is of course intolerable that a free people should be governed, even in part, by those to whom they did not expressly grant such power. That would be true even if the Senate were filled with Solomons, and not the bizarre cargo of bagmen, strategists, failed candidates, criminals, cranks and other political problems that prime ministers have traditionally solved by the expedient of the Other Place.
Yes, some senators do good work. Committees of the Senate often produce thoughtful reports. But they have no more democratic right to translate their views into law, to move, amend, pass or reject bills and otherwise exercise the powers of legislators than I do. Though by convention the Senate’s powers are less than they appear on paper, they are still more than any patronage house should rightfully have, and have been exceeded on more than one occasion.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 3:09 PM - 61 Comments
JJ McCullough blames the founding fathers for the Senate.
Canada is a living example of why constitution-writing is not a task to be taken lightly. The Harper government’s current efforts to carve a workable second chamber from the breathtakingly incompetent mess that the Fathers of Confederation devised nearly a century-and-a-half ago is a testament to just how intellectually uncurious and uncreative many of our nation’s supremely overrated founders were. Indeed, the entire Senate reform exercise really highlights the degree to which “Canada,” as a whole, is a fundamentally ungovernable creation under any political system except the uninspiring status quo. A country that cannot reform even its most universally reviled institution (only 5% of Canadians like the Senate as-is) is not a country that’s built on solid foundations.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 1:39 PM - 58 Comments
This unbalanced distribution of Senate seats -a historical artifact -is a problem for the two western provinces and an anomaly of our federation; Stephen Harper’s reform would make the situation much worse. In the existing unelected Senate, this problem is mitigated by the fact that our senators play their constitutional role with moderation, letting the elected House of Commons have the final word most of the time. But in an elected Senate, with members able to invoke as much democratic legitimacy as their House counterparts -if not more, since they would represent provinces rather than ridings -the underrepresentation of British Columbia and Alberta would take its full scope and significance.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM - 0 Comments
Matthew P. Harrington argues against the currently proposed Senate reforms.
At present, the Senate is regarded as a deferential body, confining itself largely to amending or revising legislation passed by the Commons, largely because senators lack democratic legitimacy.
Once members of the Senate are themselves elected, however, there is little justification for their continued deference to the House. After all, a senator elected by an entire province arguably has a stronger mandate to govern than members of the Commons, who are sent to Ottawa by relatively small segments of the electorate. This would create increased opportunity for gridlock as members of the Senate and Commons disagree over legislation.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 4:18 PM - 0 Comments